Smart young kids and too much freedom do not mix well.
August 31, 2001 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Smart young kids and too much freedom do not mix well. A girl prodigy at the age of 14 goes to university. She becomes mixed up in drugs, alcohol and sex. The parents sue school for lack of supervision. Is it really the school's job to look after her? Don't the parents have some responsibility here?
posted by aj100 (59 comments total)

 
I am not really sure how I feel about this. Just wanted to see what everone else thinks.
posted by aj100 at 6:30 AM on August 31, 2001


: oh my god no! a 15 year old haveing sex, drinking and doing drugs? ive never heard such a thing. jesus christ.. and how exactly was she sexually abused anyway? and why does she need drug and alcohol rehab?
posted by DevilManX at 6:33 AM on August 31, 2001


i have a couple of friends who went to college at about that age. they didn't live in the dorms; they lived with their parents.

anyone who complains that the kid is then losing out on the social aspect of college, i say this: if the parents cared about the social aspect, the kid would still be in high school. a 15-yr-old should not be socializing with 20-yr-olds, especially not in a college campus environment.
posted by meep at 6:35 AM on August 31, 2001


What? A teenager away from her parents overindulging? Say it isn't so!

I think the lawsuit depends on whatever promises the school made to the parents. I don't think liability can be established unless the school promised to babysit her 24/7.

This whole thing sounds a little fishy. She never attempted to contact the authorities after any of the many "sexual violations." So are we to assume she consented? Even if she did, 14-15 probably is under the age of consent so where's the criminal charges against the entire football team?
posted by skallas at 6:36 AM on August 31, 2001


DevilMan, did you read the article? In the space of one semester she allegedly went from drinking alcohol to smoking marijuana, to doing LSD, cocaine, and morphine. Her GPA dropped from 3.5 to 1.9. I think she could use rehab.

It also seems, from the article, that the school did not live up to it's promises. According to the article, school officials promised they would give "Jane" special attention and "watch" her because she was so young. Whether that is true or not, the parents at least should have been called when the girl had to be treated for alcohol poisoning. I think a lot of people are at fault here, but it doesn't seem to me that the university is blameless. Most people who go to college are 18, or on the verge, and therefore can be expected to fend for themselves and face the consequences if they screw up. A 14-year-old is very, very easy to take advantage of.
posted by starvingartist at 6:38 AM on August 31, 2001


She never attempted to contact the authorities after any of the many "sexual violations."

She was 14! Christ, when I was in high school none of my 14-year-old female friends would have told anyone if they'd been sexually assaulted! The assumed stigma and shame they would have felt would have been overwhelming. It wouldn't surprise me that she wouldn't report it, given the situation.
posted by starvingartist at 6:41 AM on August 31, 2001


If she was asked to play with the big kids, she will be treated as a big kid. It is not the college's responsibility to pay extra-special attention to her (although it would be nice, since it is a huge adjustment) It was probably assumed that since she was a prodigy, she had matured in other ways as well. Whether she had or not is iffy since many other students (of all ages) have sex, do drugs and drink at dangerous levels.

How do we know that this girl didn't have a past history of this stuff? Sounds to me like the parents had a wakeup call about their gifted child and they're in denial.

We don't know about her history. The only person who can truly say whether she did these things by choice or by coercion (sp?) is that girl. And with two different authorities (school and parents) wanting two different answers, she probably didn't really know what to say. I would assume that she would want to stay in school, and to please her parents, so there was probably a lot of waffling on what "really happened".

If anything comes out of this, it should be that there is an age cut off for going to college / university. Because no one can guarantee the maturity levels of a 14 year old student once they are thrust into a completely different school situation. Many "of-age" first year students can't handle it.
posted by melissa at 6:48 AM on August 31, 2001


starvingartist, I see where you're coming from but its still a big generalization. Even if we go the way you suggest, someone must have seen how obvious of a sex toy she had become for the team. I think its more probable than just possible that someone would have reported *something*. Unfortunately the article doesn't name witnesses and there aren't any criminal charges involved (yet?). Is the allure of a 15 year old so great that all these players are going to face statutory rape charges and throw away their post-college careers?

We're working on very little information here but I'm seeing a combination of "protect the jocks" blind eye and intelligent girl gone bad making very smart and convincing lies to protect herself mixed with angry litigious parents.
posted by skallas at 6:56 AM on August 31, 2001


Am I the only one who is wondering why the parents handed over their 14 year old daughter carte blanche to the university for supervision and support? This lawsuit is bogus. They were expecting the university to babysit their daughter if not parent her and that is NOT the administrations responsibility. More likely this child wanted to fit in desperately and without parental guidance picked the easy way to do so. Yes, I said easy. Want instant acceptance in a circle, do what they do... be it drugs, sex, whatever. College is a learning experience and hard enough when you are of age. If you are smart enough to attend at a younger age, great. But emotional maturity also needs a chance to develop. Why not live at home and be a teenager and attend college classes. If she wants the college experience when she is old enough to handle it, let her go to grad school!
posted by gloege at 7:02 AM on August 31, 2001


UAB would have never had the public relations advantage of trumpeting the fact that they had the youngest college student in the state," the lawsuit says.

Interesting....so now anyone could track down who Jane Doe is if they looked hard enough.
posted by bkdelong at 7:04 AM on August 31, 2001


So the parents want to sue the university because they did a piss-poor job of raising their kid with values? Gimme a break. This case seems nothing more than a kid gone away from her parents, decided to get freaky and when her grades dropped - all of a sudden its everyone else's fault but her own. Cry me a river. I was 16 when I started college, and I know of others who've started earlier and no such result occured.
posted by owillis at 7:04 AM on August 31, 2001


yes, you're right skallas - maybe I misinterpreted your statement. I know someone must have known about the way she was being treated and turned a blind eye. The fact that she didn't seem to report it doesn't surprise me, but there must have been other people with the knowledge who didn't use it properly.

And here's another generalization, but... athletes at a large state school? Yeah, some of them probably were willing to risk their careers for the allure of a 15-year-old sex toy. Hell, I know some tech-geeks from Case Western who would have jumped at it. College students can be stupid.
posted by starvingartist at 7:08 AM on August 31, 2001


I don't know why child prodigies have to be sent away to university before everyone else anyway. What's the rush?

I remember when Ruth Lawrence went to Oxford at the age of, what was it, 13 or 14, and she spent the whole time cycling through the town with her father and was labelled a freak by all the other undergraduates. Just hold on and go at the right age.
posted by Summer at 7:11 AM on August 31, 2001


Ah, yes. The slippery slope of litigation gets a bit, um, slippery-er.

Think about this: there is no real distinction under the civil law for imposing a duty on a school to watch over a 14/15 year-old student more closely than 18-22 year-old students. If this suit succeeds, the message sent to schools will be that they have an obligation to monitor the behavior of all students at all times.

Sorry, this one falls on the parents, not the school.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:12 AM on August 31, 2001


From the article:
According to the suit, the girl entered college just before her 15th birthday under guarantees from the university that she would receive special treatment and protection because of her age -- "that she would be 'watched' and that the university would provide for all additional care and protection needed for someone so young."

Yes, journalists sometimes get things wrong. Yes, the girl may have made bad decisions - but she was 14, and a lot of 14-year-olds are easily impressionable, especially by cool, older college students. Yes, the parents may have been naive, in denial, bad parents, whatever.

Bottom line is, if the university said they would do this, it looks like they failed, and they share some of the reponsibility. Not all. Some.
posted by starvingartist at 7:16 AM on August 31, 2001


The only thing I can really take issue with here is the university failing to notify the parents after the very first incident of which they were aware. If indeed they failed to notify, that is. I would be pretty pissed off if my child was treated for alcohol poisoning and no one told me about it. But was she treated at a university medical facility? Or a hospital? Who took her to the medical facility? Who knew about it? That wasn't really addressed in the article.

The parents claim that the school promised to give the girl special protection/supervision as a condition of enrollment, and if indeed they did not provide that, then they do have a certain amount of responsibility here, or at least a failure to uphold their obligation. Certainly not a $40 million dollar responsibility. That is ridiculous.

Just how much supervision was the taxpayer supposed to provide for this girl? A faculty member assigned to do nothing else but monitor the child? Why weren't the PARENTS doing that? This is just another example of people that don't take enough responsibility for their own child and then blame and sue someone else when everything goes to shit. I am sick of it.

I cannot hold the school responsible for the sex, drugs and GPA. Where were the parents when this was spiraling out of control? She's 15 and they did not bother to monitor anything? I don't care if that girl smoked some pot and snorted some coke and screwed the whole football team - that does not qualify as sexual harassment under Title IX as far as I am concerned. Perhaps it falls under state law for statutory rape but federal discrimination laws? Come on.

She went to that school on a scholarship right before her 15th birthday and I think it is just great that she was intelligent enough to enter college at such a young age. Maybe her parents should have considered moving near the school and allowing the girl to commute. What good can come of a 15 year old living in a college dorm? HELLO JANE DOE PARENTS! WAKE THE HELL UP!

I am sick and tired of people that blame others for their failure as a parent and especially those that want to make $40 million dollars off of that failure.
posted by Scorch at 7:17 AM on August 31, 2001


Interesting....so now anyone could track down who Jane Doe is if they looked hard enough.

Gee, that was hard.

Go Google!
posted by spilon at 7:32 AM on August 31, 2001


What did Jane Doe/BB's parents think happened at college anyway? Didn't they go to college once? Duh.

It would be a cryin' shame if her parents got any money out of this. Tossing a 14-year-old girl into a college atmosphere is lunacy.
posted by woodge at 7:43 AM on August 31, 2001


Brittany Benefield's friends at UAB treat her a little different from others in the group.

I'll say!

She's been homeschooled through high school, why am I not surprised? Notice the other kid in the article, he commutes. Why am I not surprised again?
posted by skallas at 7:43 AM on August 31, 2001


Hm... I'd have to say I agree that mixing such things (smart young kids + college) *can* have bad results, but check this out: Simon's Rock College (man, they *still* have that crappy webpage...). Almost every freshman there is 15 or 16, as most start after their sophomore year of high school. Most manage to do quite well. Of course, some don't.

It's interesting watching the freshmen come in, seeing which do 180s from apparently prim and proper to... other things. But it is very much possible to leave your parents early and not explode. Heck, one kid there was 11. He got some special attention, though, partly because of his age and partly because his parents are celebrities...

Oh, and the school has a truly massive insurance policy... The legal situation is a little sticky, I guess.
posted by whatnotever at 7:52 AM on August 31, 2001


So, she didn't go to school with quote-unquote-normal-kids where she could at least develop some social skills and then they set her loose in a college dormitory?! I'd say the parents should be first kicking themselves and then thanking God the kid's still alive...
posted by m.polo at 7:55 AM on August 31, 2001


the parents should've been more responsible... and to some extent, the university should've been too (certainly all the blame doesn't go on them, even though they did agree to give her special treatment.)... what's really sad is how much college can fuck a kid up. i mean, from what i see in most of the posts here, everyone just expects the college scene to be a place that could really mess up your life, instead of somehwere with oppurtunities...

i just got done with my first year at a university, and it's amazing to see how many people i see that are worse off for going to college. partly because i'm a dork/partly 'cause i work and go to school too much/ and partly 'cause i don't have any desire to become any stupider than i already am, i try not to involve myself too much in the scene. i can understand how even a 15 year old who was raised well could lose herself at college.. i dunno.. i'm rambling 'cause i don't know what else to add to this thread, but i know i wanted to say something about how sad the college scene is.
posted by lotsofno at 8:05 AM on August 31, 2001


One thing to note here: The 15-year-old is from a small town, of less than 5,000 people, about an hour outside of Birmingham, AL. UAB is just outside the downtown area. In other words, she went from an incredibly tiny little place to an urban university, unsupervised. Crazy, the parents were. She might have had a history? There are more than a few hard drug users in rural America, but not 14-year-old ones living under the supervision of their home-schooling (bleah) parents.
posted by raysmj at 8:06 AM on August 31, 2001


If anything comes out of this, it should be that there is an age cut off for going to college / university.

No way -- Title IX, baby. I think it's ridiculous to limit a person's education just because they're "too young." I think a more appropriate solution is to strongly encourage younger students to be day students, and require parents to sign release forms if students are minors.

So the parents want to sue the university because they did a piss-poor job of raising their kid with values?

No, they want to sue the university because they were promised supervision for their daughter. (A naive expectation? Probably. But schools go out of their way for athletes, why is it unreasonable to think that they would do the same for a child prodigy?) I don't think values have much to do with it -- at 14, kids' values aren't solidified yet. She could have had a good foundation, but as soon as she was introduced to such an extreme environment of freedom, drugs, celebrity (at southern colleges, football players are gods), it all flew out the window.

IMO, one parent should have temporarily moved to Birmingham so she could go to school and still be supervised. Maybe when she was 17, she could move into the dorms, and Mom/Dad could move back home.

It's hard for us to know what the university's agreement was with the parents, but if they promised something that they didn't provide, the university is very responsible.
posted by jennak at 8:09 AM on August 31, 2001


Check out this link for further comments from the young women herself:

http://www.uab.edu/kscope/9-19-2000-archives.htm

In light of all that's alleged to have happened, seems her comments are a touch ironic, eh?
posted by Pro-Jet at 8:10 AM on August 31, 2001


If - in the normal course of the day - administrators were aware of these happenings, then yes, the school is responsible. It's not a matter of babysitting as it is about reporting a crime.
posted by Witold at 8:16 AM on August 31, 2001


This case is just brimming with examples of stupid choices made by the parents that contributed directly to what happened with/to this girl. They could have sent her to a small, non-urban (perhaps even religiously-affiliated) school where the atmosphere would not have been as conducive to this wild behaviour, and the smaller student body size makes it easier for the administration to keep tabs on individuals. They could have kept her at home, let her get college credits through examination or a nearby junior or community college and let her wait to go to UAB until she was a bit older. They could have moved to Birmingham with her so that she could have the benefit of attending UAB and still living with her family, as a 14 year old kid. They could have kept closer tabs on her - a nightly phone call, even for just five minutes, to say goodnight wouldn't have hurt, not at her age.

If the parents had tried to keep a tighter rein on the girl, she might've rebelled, but that should have been a sign to them that she wasn't prepared for the range of responsibilities that she was facing by entering this situation at this point in her life.

In any case, the first line of interaction in the non-academic life of a dorm-dwelling student is an RA. If she kept her activities out of the view of her RA, then it's likely that no one up the ladder would have known, either, until the alcohol poisoning event. Should the school have been required to direct the RA, another student, to have to keep special tabs on this girl? Is that what the parents were expecting? I don't think that's reasonable at all.
posted by Dreama at 8:20 AM on August 31, 2001


But things soon spiraled out of control when she had to move from her dormitory into Blazer Hall, a dormitory that houses many UAB football and basketball players, according to the suit.

It seems awfully irresponsible of both the school and the parents to have allowed a 14 year old girl move into a coed dorm. The parents also should be faulted for placing their adolescent daughter into the hands of the "system" (school system in this case) with a simple, "call me if there is a problem."

I really think that if advanced education was really necessary at her age, then maybe a jr. college in her home area would have been more in order.

Blame can be pointed in every direction here.
posted by a3matrix at 8:30 AM on August 31, 2001


No way -- Title IX, baby. I think it's ridiculous to limit a person's education just because they're "too young." I think a more appropriate solution is to strongly encourage younger students to be day students, and require parents to sign release forms if students are minors.

That's a more balanced solution. My initial response was pretty knee-jerk. I realize that many young students can handle a typical college experience. However, many can't. So I was thinking cut-off so that school administrations wouldn't continued to have these problems, since emotional maturity is not guaranteed the same for everyone. However, registering them as day students and commuting from home makes more sense.

(I also know nothing of title IX, what's that?)

There are more than a few hard drug users in rural America, but not 14-year-old ones living under the supervision of their home-schooling (bleah) parents.

If there's a will, there's a way. How they were educated (home versus high school) means nothing.

How was the agreement between the school and the parents finalized? A handshake? Contract? Should it matter?
posted by melissa at 8:32 AM on August 31, 2001


I would like to point out that at this point we have absolutely zero evidence that any of the charges in this lawsuit are true about Brittany and the football team, or even about her drug usage. The only facts we seem to have is that her GPA plummetted and she was a lush. (And I'm not totally convinced this story even proves she was drinking.) This could be a Tawana Brawley for all we know.

"[Brittany] essentially became known as the 'white, 15-year-old that would have sex with athletes.'"

Um, the white 15-year-old? Why is that relevant?

"They have a little bit of an empty nest syndrome," said Miss Benefield, who is an only child. "I think my dad wants his little girl back home."

A rathing telling statement.
posted by aaron at 8:33 AM on August 31, 2001



It seems awfully irresponsible of both the school and the parents to have allowed a 14 year old girl move into a coed dorm.

When I went to NYU, there were no same-sex dorms. The argument ought to be that her parents shouldn't have allowed her to move into in any dorm whatsoever.
posted by aaron at 8:35 AM on August 31, 2001



(I also know nothing of title IX, what's that?)

A US federal law (1972, I think) which requires all colleges that receive federal funds (which is damn near all of them) to provide "equality of opportunity" for women. It technically covers everything, but it had the most effect on college athletics.
posted by aaron at 8:41 AM on August 31, 2001



i don't even know where to start with this . . . yes, this kid got in over her head, and the university probably shares some degree of blame for the outcome.

but christ, this happens EVERY DAY. the only difference is that the people who fall into these same traps are not 'gifted' or socially privileged enough to warrant this kind of attention. who is this girl going to go to for $40 million dollars. Often regarded as nothing more than the butt of white trash and/or inner-city stereotypes and jokes, talk shows routinely feature the stories of teen girls who proudly engage in the the same behaviour as the 'victimized prodigy.' Does every drugged up and promiscuous 15 year old girl on Montel or Springer make headlines?

The biggest news here is old news: hypocricy.

But beyond this level . . . even beyond the usual culprits of cultural sexism and 'moral breadown' or the godlike status of college and professional atheletes . . . I wish that I had the time and energy to say something profound about the paternalism of American culture in regards to its youth, especially young women. Where would the outrage be if it had been the male student? There would have been sniggering, innuendo, even if legal victimization could be established, the prevalent social attitudes would be much, much different.

Yes, the issues surrounding girls and young women are complicated by the existence of negative social pressures and images, sexual assault, and general mysoginy. But one thing ignored by most commentary on this story and the general surrounding phenomena: the madonna-whore complex that creates the seperation between 'good girls' and 'bad girls.' from here, its just a short step to the psychological damage caused by society's zeal to protect the 'virtue' of young women, which can either result in incidents like this or serious issues with personal freedom, control and sex (just to name a few) later in life.

I know that I'm mapping out a pretty tangled path here, but think about this in terms of the helpless twentysomething demographic. The path to adulthood in our culture has developed without any reference to human biology, or even psychology. All attempts to resolve differing rates of physical/emotional/intellectual maturity with our one static system of education/economics/'legal' adulthood center around years of undermining and negating the natural urges towards experimentation, adventure and independent action that come along with these changes. And then, one day, we arbitrarily declare these 'children' to be adults. Crippled by stunted development, of course they are helpless to approach sex and drugs rationally, find a career and/or a job, etc.

This may strike many as a huge leap, but I've gone and made it. Any thoughts?
posted by hipstertrash at 8:58 AM on August 31, 2001


wow. well said, hipster.
posted by starvingartist at 9:07 AM on August 31, 2001


There's a huge piece of context missing in these posts. Until sometime not so long ago, universities acted explicitly in loco parentis, that is, in the place of the parents. Universities were quite literally responsible for students and their behaviour. College wasn't just a service one bought, but something you joined in a much fuller sense.

That changed, for the most part, in the 60s as adults (as most or many students are) exerted their rights to take responsibility for themselves. But as recently as the late 80s some colleges still maintained that they had to fulfill this role. BU is one example that maintained this, at least for students in the dorms. Thus they could set curfews and regulate other behaviour and the students had few rights to do anything about it.

The problem here is that the University seems to have said it would act in this way but in fact did not. I think there may in fact be some merit to the case, therefore, because their assertions that they would look out for her weren't, or shouldn't have been, just idle chatter but a claim that they could and would supervise in place of the parents, which as we've seen is a role that all Universities used to fill.
posted by mikel at 9:11 AM on August 31, 2001


It sounds to me like the university assured parents that the dorms were policed (which they usually are) and that there were older students and staff to assist the students (which there usually is). I wonder whether they promised *special* attention to this girl. There are schools that regularly accept younger kids, but they do it under very special circumstances, clearly for good reason.

Part of the process of going to university is being on your own in some ways. I know at the schools I've attended, they wouldn't release my grades to *anyone* but me on pain of death, and it seems to me that there are ethical questions involved with spilling the beans about medical issues as well. Perhaps the girl asked them to keep it confidential? If she's old enough to be away from home at university, why isn't she old enough to have confidentiality rights? It seems odd to me that a 'policeman' on campus would have access to the girl's GPA.

Clearly things went too far, and if someone on the university staff or faculty was giving her morphine, something needs to happen around that, but her age becomes less of an issue. That just shouldn't be happening period.

I think we can't say who's at fault and who should have done what until we know more about what she was up to. She's of age to have sex, it's not illegal for her to do so, nor is it even something anyone should be telling her parents about. If she wants to sleep with the football team AND the basketball team, that's her perrogative. Jane essentially became known as the 'white 15-year-old that would have sex with athletes.' Was this repeated rape? Possibly. Was it BB's attempt to fit in? Possibly. As it was students she was having sex with, I'm not clear how the school can be held responsible for it.

I don't think university is inherently dangerous...adulthood might be. And as everyone's pointed out, the 'freedom' of being out of your own for the first time (particularly after been homeschooled for years), carries its own risks. I know there are many schools in the US that accept young kids into university programs. What the heck IS the rush? If your kids are too smart for high school, send them to evening classes in perl and C++, put them in pottery class, put them in piano/violin/guitar classes, get them to write a novel, an opera, learn a few languages, I mean really. Get them an interesting and inspiring job. They could do volunteer work. Send them away with Up with People for a while. Not all academic growth happens in structured enviornments like universities. And there is something to say about the slow process from sheltered to independent.

Just my few Canadian coins.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:35 AM on August 31, 2001


An old post on a related situation.
posted by holgate at 9:46 AM on August 31, 2001


Q: (I also know nothing of title IX, what's that?)
A: A US federal law (1972, I think) which requires all colleges that receive federal funds (which is damn near all of them) to provide "equality of opportunity" for women. It technically covers everything, but it had the most effect on college athletics.


Aaron's absolutely correct. What I had meant to point to the Age Discrimination Act of 1975. It prevents programs that receive federal funds ("a college, university, or other postsecondary institution, or a public system of higher education; or local education agency") from discriminating based on age.
posted by jennak at 9:50 AM on August 31, 2001


As someone who attended college at the age of 16, I don't see anything wrong with attending college before the traditional time. Of course, this assumes that the college or parents are able to provide adequate supervision and the student is mature enough to be able to handle the environment that they are being put in to.

In my case, I was a student at TAMS at the University of North Texas. I arrived shortly after my 16th birthday and I was surrounded in my dorm by other TAMS students (at the time, there were only ~160 students) and "normal" UNT students. All of our RAs and dorm staff were ordinary UNT students. Our classes were mixed, in many cases they were predominantly TAMS students, but I don't remember a single class that didn't have its share of other UNT students as well. We were seen as the "kids" on campus, it definitely carried a stigma, however, that was only by those students who didn't know or have any interaction with TAMS students.

I did see a lot of my friends in TAMS dive head first into excessive drug use, drinking and sex, but no more than one would find with any group of 15 - 18 year old kids in highschool. We were supervised, 11 PM curfew during the week, 1 AM during the weekend. An RA would make sure we were in the dorm each night at curfew, if you weren't, all hell could break loose. Same sex visitation in our dorm rooms was serverly restricted, pretty much ruling out sex unless you went to one of the classrooms in Wooten Hall. Most of the students didn't have cars, first year students at the time were prohibited from having cars on campus. Those of us who did have a car our freshman year were forced to surrender the keys to TAMS and park at Fout's Field, way out in BFE. Of course, those rules were broken.

The best part of my TAMS experience was the creativity of the students. Stuff a whole bunch of super intelligent kids into one place and its amazing what they will come up with. Such as counterfeit dollar bills... photocopy the front side of a dollar and stick it in a coke machine or something similar. I wasn't part of that ring... those who were eventually got busted by the Feds and kicked out of the program.

Did I miss out on high school? Hell no! My experience was different than most, but no less rewarding. If it wasn't for TAMS I would have never found the internet (which lead me to my current career), not attended Johns Hopkins University and Emory and my life would not be what it is today. I have no regrets.
posted by FullFrontalNerdity at 9:54 AM on August 31, 2001


Thank you for the explanations of Title IX jennak and aaron. (just another Canadian here).
posted by melissa at 9:58 AM on August 31, 2001


Parents: Stupid for not checking in on her more, having her home on weekends, letting her attend a summer session.

(I mean, really.. why did she have to attend a summer session? No one goes to summer session.)

School: If they knew about something, they should have reported it, although this is a problem I tried to address at my undergrad school (mumble-cough) years ago. If you submit to the internal school procedures, they have no obligation to report crimes to the authorities.. individuals have to do that themselves, and if you went through school arbitration, etc.. you sometimes lost some ability to sue someone civilly for a crime.

Also, the school should not have her in a coed dorm while underage.

Although I agree with the idea that making people 'poof' an adult when they hit 18 while denying them the ability to mature properly by providing supervised responsibility while growing up, I don't think it really applies in this case.

The girl is a typical 15 year old. Everyone at every age thinks they're just as mature as someone older than them until they're older and realize they weren't.

The parents should have been smarter and more responsible in watching over her, making curfues, and probably making her commute. The school should have taken more precautions, given a heads up warning as soon as something developed (like grades going down or rumors of her carrousing), and probably could have assigned her a staff mentor/guidence counselor to keep an eye on her performance, attendance to class, and so forth.

The school itself is not liable, though, unless they fostered an atmosphere.. which they may have by placing her in a coed dorm.
posted by rich at 9:59 AM on August 31, 2001


Certainly there is the age discrimination act but it makes an explicit exemption:

:(A) Such action reasonably takes into account age as a factor necessary to
the normal operation or the achievement of any statutory objective of such
program or activity; or...:

For example, when I lived in the dorms the University strongly encouraged drinking-age seniors and graduate students to live in graduate student housing (which is still dry but has a very different cultural environment.) In addition the university strongly encouraged high school students to take university classes along with high school classes. Certainly I would find it reasonable to argue that age is a factor necessary to the normal operation or the achievement of the statutory goals of the university.

I think there is quite a bit of fault on all the parties involved in this case. I don't think that young teenagers belong in unsupervised housing with older students. I think that the University was neglegent in policing its athletes and in supporting an atmosphere where sexual assault was covered up.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:20 AM on August 31, 2001


skallas is correct. alabama's age of consent is 16. where are the statutory rape charges?
posted by lescour at 10:41 AM on August 31, 2001


""[Brittany] essentially became known as the 'white, 15-year-old that would have sex with athletes.'"
Um, the white 15-year-old? Why is that relevant?"

It's relevant because it's the SOUTH. I also thought this line in the article was strange, but then I remembered where UAB is located.

I hate to say this, being from the South myself, but race and racism are still HUGE issues there. I'm not saying that racism is necessarily playing a role here, but I assume that a good many athletes on the UAB basketball and football team are African American, and "Jane" is a white girl. Maybe her parents were particularly outraged to find out that their daughter was fooling around with black guys. There's still a lot of hysteria/stigma surrounding that kind of thing.
posted by mariko at 10:47 AM on August 31, 2001


messed up the link. oops. here's a better one. to sum up, a male having sex with a female younger than 16 and older than 12 is a 2nd degree rape, a class b felony, provided that the male is at least 16 and 2 years older than the female.

seems pretty cut and dried to me.
posted by lescour at 10:51 AM on August 31, 2001


Cut and dried, lescour, only if criminal charges are filed. They haven't been, and I doubt they will be. The parents and the student aren't in this for justice...They're in it for a huge payday.
posted by dogmatic at 11:17 AM on August 31, 2001


It's relevant because it's the SOUTH.

It is also relevent who is saying it. Is it the school gratutiously mentioning this fact. Is it a cleaned up version of what the male students actually said about her? It strikes me as just being part of the story the way it is presented.
posted by thirteen at 11:31 AM on August 31, 2001


mariko: Gosh, you mean basketball and football players are all white in other parts of the country, and that no racial controversies ever erupt in sports elsewhere? No, I'm not omnipresent, and haven't visited every state, but I do have a freakin' TV and watch sporting events, read and watch the news. Also, that there is no racism anywhere else? No, interracial relationships aren't a problem with people anywhere else, thus Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever," etc., etc. Please.
posted by raysmj at 11:53 AM on August 31, 2001


One of the wonderful qualities of college is that it lets teenagers become adults. academia was a part of an overall experience for me. In the span of one semester, I got to drink with friends, experiment with various drugs, and have wonderful relationships, sexual or otherwise.

The caveat is that I was old enough to truly enjoy these experiences and make decisions based on information at hand and possible consequences. I regret nothing I have done during those years. They were amongst the best times of my life.

I think the question here is what was the parents motivation to send the child to college so early. I think a lot of people focus on the academic aspects of school, without thinking about the social ones. Growing intellectually is important, but having social skills is also important.

If I had a child who wanted to attend college at 15, I would tell him to wait. I was barely old enough to know better when I was 18, I would never have made quality decisions when I was 15.

The school should have never admitted the girl, and the parents should have never let her go. But, what's done is done.

The parents are as much to blame for being ignorant of what happens in colleges as the school is of being ignorant of the needs of a 15 year old.

The sad thing is that it's the child who'll end up being hurt the most, no matter what happens with this lawsuit.
posted by bozos72 at 12:07 PM on August 31, 2001


Hey, FullFrontalNerdity! TAMS Class of '97 over here!

Some kids can go early and have normal college experiences, but it's not for everyone. I have a few regrets about starting school at 16, and I bet I wouldn't have made a few of the mistakes I made if I waited until I was older.

But her parents should have thought twice about just sending her off into the college world (which is like the real world on X, basically), after she'd been so sheltered before. I'm not saying home-schooling is bad, but you really miss out on a lot of the non-academic learning experiences you get from your peers.

There seems to be a lot missing from the story. If they were so protective of her in the first place, I don't see how they would trust the university and the child over such a long period of time without any information. It seems like they found out about all of BB's shenanigans after the fact. Didn't they ever visit? Why didn't they automatically have access to any medical records? At first glance it seems like someone's trying to play off a bad decision.
posted by lnicole at 12:33 PM on August 31, 2001


And I thought we were a community of skeptics here on the internet-- I'm surprised at how many of you just assume this is all true. I know if I was a Child Super Genius who went to college before I was ready and my grades plummeted, I might make up a story or two. Of course this is awful if it happened, but remember, in the good old USA, an event doesn't need to have actually happened for somebody to sue over it.
posted by kevspace at 1:02 PM on August 31, 2001


Hmm, well, I was a certified, tested, USDA approved Child Super Genius, and I elected to wait, to not skip grades, go to college at normal ages, etc., and the emotional/psychological aspects of college still managed to kick my ass pretty hard. OK, not as hard as this girl, but still...

Take that however you want, as "It doesn't matter, go for it," or "even the annointed ones should wait." I don't think I'll argue with you either way.
posted by NortonDC at 1:10 PM on August 31, 2001


kevspace: that is one reason why i, and i'm fairly certain other posters on this thread, wondered why there are not criminal charges being filed.
posted by lescour at 1:13 PM on August 31, 2001


if I was a Child Super Genius who went to college before I was ready and my grades plummeted, I might make up a story or two

Hmmm. Now why didn't I think of that. What's the statue of limitations on cases like this? With my 401(k) tanking, I could stand to gain a few mill from my alma matter.

See, I went to college 20 years ago, drank too much and smoked too much dope, my grades plummeted, had a nervous breakdown, and my parents worried a lot. So, except that I was 17 and not 15, and male and not female, and there was virtually no sex my freshman year [for me, anyway], my situation is exactly like this young woman's!
posted by idiolect at 1:16 PM on August 31, 2001


Eeek! I didn't realize I'd run into more of those damn TAMSters here.

I'm class of '91, the second graduating class. Back in the day when we were guinea pigs for this new-fangled idea of TAMS. It certainly had its rough spots... and its fun times too. I wonder if the stains from the jello-wrestling tourney are still on the ceiling in the cafeteria of McConnell Hall.
posted by FullFrontalNerdity at 2:24 PM on August 31, 2001


Lest the "TAMSters" drown us out, let's hear from all those Simon's Rock llamas in da house! Whoot whoot whoot! I know there's at least one of you out there...

For that matter: shout out to the CTY folk! Franklin & Marshall '88, baybee! Bleem College, yeah!

Wow, now that I feel quite silly... I agree with the multiple posts noting that right now, we don't know that any of the facts are true except that her GPA plummeted, and the parents are suing. Some of it does sound a bit wild and farfetched, but on the other hand it's not unheard of (the stuff about a university hospital worker dealing her cocaine, if true, is pretty disturbing however) . Sometimes going to college, or just being a smart kid who feels like they can finally blossom, can cause people to overdo it. With 18-22 year olds, they are adults and a wee bit better prepared to handle it, but at 14/15... well, the parents and college should have known better, especially in having her living with adults. The college regardless sounds partly to blame, including not having more monitoring- Simon's Rock was big on lots of supervision for the liability issue- and deciding to put her in a dorm instead of a more appropriate or laidback form of student housing, such as mods or even off-campus housing. But the athlete's dorm? Jayzus... whether this was a wild child or not, that was horrible judgement- what was the thinking there?!

Oh, and one more thing: it's not like this girl's life is over or anything: she will likely need plenty of rehab for the drugs, but beyond that... heck she STILL isn't of college age, so a little time off from all school is probably a healthy thing, and she'll still be back on her feet well before most kids are going to college anyway. I'm sure Simon's Rock will be accepting applications... :)
posted by hincandenza at 10:17 PM on August 31, 2001



I hope she gets off drugs but I cant see her settling down sexually. I mean she did the basketball team AND the football team at a major University before she was 16!
posted by righteous at 3:04 PM on October 10, 2001


Any update on BB? I think she has a few things to work out. Good girl!
posted by righteous at 11:34 AM on October 30, 2001


this is very interesting to read...

...because it's been double-posted here, but it's a very different article and a very different discussion. i suggest that anyone who badmouthed the girl or dismissed the lawsuit's validity read the more in-depth article linked in the other thread, for a more sobering perspective.
posted by zerolucid at 12:02 PM on May 31, 2002


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